Monday, June 30, 2014

But A Breath

In the words of one of my favorite songs from high school: "Life is but a breath, don't waste it." In the grand scheme of things, our lives are so very short. Compared to the span of eternity, this time on earth is nothing. We are given such a short span of minutes to make a difference, let's do everything we can to take advantage of that. What are you being called to do? For me, it's simple. I'm called to write. Nothing special, really. I have this blog, I utilize what I'm given. How about you? Don't turn your back on what God's will for your life is! Perhaps it is not convenient, maybe you are uncomfortable with what you're meant to do. The longer you push away the plans He has for you, the easier it is to never follow His will.

There are so many things we could do with our lives, and too often we shy away from these things. We don't like to step out of our comfort zones. We hate to be inconvenienced. What's more important here? What we want? Or what God wants?

Be audacious. Step out in faith. Wake up at 5am on Sundays to help your church prepare for the weekend message. Lead a small group on your normal night off. Give to those in your community. Get out there. Do it.

As for myself, there are so many things I could be doing, things I need to be doing. Sure, I have my little blog, I volunteer in the community occasionally, I help at church. But sometimes it is so easy to forget to appreciate the opportunity to do these things. I'm alive! I can serve others! I should be grateful, not grumbly! I should do more, I shouldn't do as little as possible and see where I can cut corners. God wants us to put our best effort into everything that we do.

Not only are we going to make a difference in this world, but every moment we choose to serve Christ can mean a swelling in the population of Heaven.

One shot is all you've got
To make a mark, to make your difference
One chance, but you don't understand this
Cause your time is limited
All you have is the breath already exiting your lungs
If you won't live, you might as well die
You can't afford to lead that life
Hands down, no regrets
Life has its hands around my neck
Fight back, no regrets
Life has its hands around our necks
Life is but a breath
Don't waste it

-But A Breath -The Wedding

Always,

Jaci

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Good, The Bad, The Habits

Habits. We all have them. Some of us have weird habits, some gross, some hygienic.  Until we started dating, my fiancĂ© used to bite his nails. I can't leave a room without having my cell phone on my person. He always remembers to balance his checkbook. I always put toilet paper on properly. The list could go on, our daily routines are made up of habits.

Those unconscious tendencies make up the fabric of our lives. They build us into the people that we are. We so desperately need to keep a close eye on the things that we allow to be a daily part of our lives. Some things are simply normal: brushing your teeth daily, doing the dishes after dinner. Other things can be harmful: drinking until you can't see straight, cutting yourself, gambling regularly. Still more habits can be life savers: reading your Bible daily, praying fervently, meeting with other believers. What we choose to do with our time is a vivid picture of what matters to us and what our eternities will look like.

Sure, you can be a Christian and make "bad" choices. You're only hurting yourself. Your rewards will reflect what you've invested your time in. If your time is spent loitering around and not accomplishing anything but feeding your own selfish desires, you simply won't receive the dividends that you could. Someone who actively pursues the Will of God and seeks to follow His desires will go into eternity blessed beyond belief.

The problem is, good habits are so very hard to form. It takes time and effort to remind yourself to read the Bible every day, to sacrificially give your hard earned money to further God's Kingdom. These things won't happen in a night. On the converse, bad habits are so easy to fall into. They take very little time and effort. Simply saying, "Oh, I'll just skip my Bible reading tonight" leads to skipping it the following night. Allowing yourself one night of binge drinking makes it harder to say "No" the next time you're invited out.

"It's so easy to drop off the radar from coming to your Fresh Life group, or even being here on the weekend. When you've taken that bait, you're doing that because the Enemy rushes in to condemn you. 'You can't go back.' He's trying to trick you though, because he's trying to keep you from the only thing that can help you! God's people." -Pastor Levi Lusko, Man Overboard-Six Ships Part 3

How do we form good habits and keep ourselves away from the bad ones? One of the things I like to do is write out a Post-It Note with a Bible verse relating to my particular problem, then keep it somewhere that I'm likely to see it on a regular basis. I also have close friends that I can trust to call me out when I'm doing something I shouldn't be. It's hard to face the music when you're doing something that could lead to a bad habit. When someone calls you out on your actions, it's so easy to get defensive and condone your behavior. That's the guilt talking. We love to have reasons for our misjudgment. Those reasons are usually nothing more than poorly formed excuses. Myself, I need to learn to man up and take the criticism with grace. I know that my friends love me and are only looking out for my own good. And I hope that they know the same of me. I may come off as abrasive when I call people out, but to me, it's simply tough love.

Be careful, little hands, what you do.

"Attempting to run from God's will is like fleeing from light; you just end up in darkness. It's like trading wealth for poverty or wisdom for ignorance or joy for sorrow or peace for chaos or usefulness for uselessness or fruit for leaves or reward for punishment. It's a silly exchange." -William Banks

Always,

Jaci

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bittersweet

A close friend asked me something the other day. She wanted to know how, as a Christian, I would respond to a non-Christian who is going through a family death and questioning how God could let bad things happen. It's a tough question, a very tough question. I had to think about it for a while. How do you explain God's unending goodness to someone who is in pain?

The best word I can find to describe the particular pain associated with heartache is this: bittersweet. These difficulties are something like a Warhead candy. Sour, painful, and hard to handle at first. But after a while the bitterness gives way to a sweet, sugary, refreshing bite.


I'm not saying the pain can ever truly disappear, the sensors in our brains are just designed to send a less-excruciating signal after time. The hurt gives way to healing, the difficulties mold us into the person we are meant to become.


Think about it. If not for the last year and a half, I would not be the person I am today. If not for Tanner, I would never have gained compassion for murderers. If not for Uncle Dave, I wouldn't remember as often to cherish the time I have with my family. If not for the loss of baby Zeke, I would never know about the amazing people in our community dedicated to blessing parents who lose their infants. Each of the moments of heartache in these last 21 months has shaped my life. I'd like to think that I'll be a better wife, daughter, mother, friend, and person because of these things. I would not say that losing 8 people in just over a year was easy, sometimes it was a struggle just to get up in the morning and find the strength to get through another day without them. And if I could have grown and changed for the better without all of the tragedy, I certainly would have! But I know that God used those times to make me better, stronger. He's preparing me to fight in His war. The loss of those I love has given me a constantly burning passion to reach those I have left with His love.


God is love, He is not death. Death is a result of the sin we choose every day. Sin has been a thorn in the side of mankind since the beginning, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23). God loves us and hates death, hates sin. That's why He sent His Son to pay the ultimate penalty for our sin, He died so that we don't have to. We'll still die a physical death here on earth, but we have the promise of eternity. Our last breath on Earth will be our first breath in Heaven. He doesn't want us to die, He wants us to live forever with Him. He is good, unconditionally good. We simply allow ourselves to be blinded by our own sin and selfishness.


To those who believe God can't possibly be good if He allows death, I beg of you, look at what He did to SAVE us from death. Look at what He has in store for us when our short time on this planet is over (Romans 8:18). He can be nothing BUT good!


All I hear is what they're selling me
That God is love, He isn't suffering
And what you need's a little faith and prosperity
But, oh my God, I know there's more than this
If you promise pain, it can't be meaningless
So make me poor if that's the price for freedom

Don't stop the madness
Don't stop the chaos
Don't stop the pain surrounding me
Don't be afraid, love, to break my heart
If it brings me down to my knees

-Tenth Avenue North, Don't Stop The Madness

Always,

Jaci

Friday, June 6, 2014

Hold Your Tongue, Dear

I had this big, fiery blog all set to be typed up about some people in my life who have been extremely selfish as of late and have been purposely sabotaging some things that are important to me. I was going to vent about the problem in order to make myself feel a little better. Then the devotional I'm reading on my YouVersion app (For King & Country-The Overflow Devo...SO GOOD) pointed out the flaws in this plan.

Here's something I'm learning–the hard way. I'm learning when it's right to say what I'm thinking. Sometimes my opinions and desires are really unnecessary for me to express. Actually, that is probably the case more often than not. In my selfishness, I want to whine. To yell out, "That's not fair!" "You copied me!" "I know better than you!" "Mooom, she hurt my feelers!" etc. Guess what? Life ISN'T fair. People will copy you, will be smarter than you, will hurt your feelings. We're all imperfect, selfish human beings. And whining isn't going to fix anything. The Bible says in Psalms to "keep your tongue from evil." In Proverbs it says "a harsh word stirs up anger." The last thing I want is for these already difficult situations to get more explosive. I need to learn to guard my emotions of anger and resentment and focus on "soft answers" and a "wholesome tongue." Do I want people to look at me and see the girl that gets an attitude when someone does something wrong? No! I want my actions to point them to Christ, not my inherited anger issues.

The hardest thing to overcome is the irritation that I feel when someone purposely does something to set me up for failure. How anyone can be so bitter and miserable that they would intentionally do things to hurt someone else, and then revel in it, is beyond me. I admit, it makes my blood boil. How dare you treat me like a second rate citizen? Who do you think you are? I mean, REALLY!

But wait.

How did the Pharisees treat Jesus? Well, like a criminal. How did Jesus treat those who persecuted them? Crap...He loved them.

While their actions might be entirely wrongeven sinfulit's my job to continue to love them (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Maybe their own guilt will catch up to them, eventually. But it's not my place to retaliate. God will point out the error of their ways, He is faithful to protect His children (Psalm 121:7)

My first step to recovery?
I'm going to try to memorize the first half of Proverbs 15, as a reminder of the type of responses I should have in my limited grammatical storehouses.

Wish me luck!

Always,

Jaci